JERUSALEM (Oct. 20)
Israel’s chief rabbis told a public commission this week that all traffic should be banned from a major thoroughfare here on the Sabbath.
The commission, which was expected to submit its findings in a matter of weeks, was formed after violent protests erupted in the summer over whether to keep Bar Ilan Street open to Sabbath traffic.
For the most part, the protests stopped during the past month, though there have been isolated incidents of stone-throwing by Orthodox youths.
Bar Ilan Street, which cuts through fervently Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem, has been at the heart of an ongoing tug-of-war between the city’s secular and Orthodox populations.
Secular opponents view a closure of the street to Sabbath traffic as an infringement of their basic rights. For the Orthodox, keeping the street open would represent a violation of religious laws regarding the Sabbath.
Chief Rabbis Yisrael Meir Lau and Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron were the last to give testimony to the commission that was appointed by the High Court of Justice to make recommendations on whether Sabbath travel should be permitted on Bar Ilan Street.
The court appointed the commission after decreeing that there appeared to be no clearcut criteria on which to base a decision.
The committee, made up of four secular and four religious members, heard testimony during the past two months from government members, traffic officials and representatives from various interest groups.